Epiphany 4B, Annual Meeting
Readings found here
What do you want to do now?
Imagine if Paul’s words in his letter to the community in Corinth were the opening address of an annual meeting.
“Knowledge puff us, but love builds up. Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge, but anyone who loves God is known by God…”
We may know, but does our knowledge serve to reconcile?
We may know, but does our knowledge upbuild the church?
We may know, but does our knowledge give glory to Christ?
Paul is adamant in his annual meeting address, I mean his letter to the Corinthians…if what we claim to know destroys others, then that knowledge is not of God.
Care for each other taking precedence over any knowledge we might claim.
Imagine. Imagine if this is how we lived.
If we were able to set aside our own desires whenever those desires would harm others.
In this way, liberty and self-discipline become partners in our ministry of reconciliation.
We are here for ministry. Not to be ministered to, altho’ that will happen in a community of ministers, but to be ministers.
Ministers by virtue of our baptism.
And, so when we gather for our parish Annual Meeting, we gather as ministers—ministers using the tool of polity and policy to advance God’s will.
At the beginning of our annual meeting, I offered/will offer a prayer that petitions God for guidance and reminds us of the reason that gives purpose to our gathering,
Eternal God, you called us to be your beloved people, to preach the gospel and show mercy. Keep your Spirit with us as we meet together, so that in everything we may do your will. Guide us lest we stumble or be misguided by our own desires. May all we do be done for the reconciling of the world, for the upbuilding of the church, and for the greater glory of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
We are beloved people.
And, out of our belovedness we are called to service, to discipleship. Living out the good news of the Gospel, showing mercy, and acting only insofar as our actions are done,
For the reconciling of the world.
For the upbuilding of the church.
And, for the greater glory of Jesus.
For me, this prayer resonates with the Gospel we heard today.
Chronologically this Gospel follows Jesus’ baptism and his subsequent 40 days in the desert, and his proclamation that the “kingdom of God is at hand”.
Spiritually, it is a sequence in which Jesus’ identity is made known by God who calls him “my son, my beloved”; then, because Jesus knows who he is and to whom he belongs, the manifestation of evil which he encounters in the desert does not have power over him.
Out of this, two truths of Jesus’ nature are revealed to us:
Jesus is the beloved child of God.
Jesus knows what evil looks like.
And, because Jesus knows what evil looks like, he can see it in the world. And, because he can see it, he can command it,
“Be silent and come out of him”.
Jesus’ claim to authority is grounded in his fundamental identity. His action emerges from his authority, his authority is grounded in belovedness.
Authority and love—discipline and liberation.
Leading to reconciliation--wholeness for a man in need of healing.
Our identity too is grounded in belovedness.
Just as Jesus was claimed as beloved at his baptism, so too are we. Beloved children of God, “marked as Christ’s own forever…”
What does this mean, this marking?
It means that,
You do not belong to the world.
You do not belong to the powers of this world.
You are not an object to be used, you are a person to be loved.
And, as Christ’s, you are part of something that cannot be destroyed, can never be destroyed.
This is who you are. This is who we are.
Marked as Christ’s own forever.
Last week, I spoke these very words—claiming baby Adrian for Christ. The rest of Adrian’s life will be lived in the aftermath of baptism. And, he will join the rest of the body of Christ living in the ordinary time.
After the promises have been made. After the community has consented.
This is ordinary time.
33-34 Sundays of the church year are Sundays we call ordinary. They are defined only in relation to what has come before,
After the Pentecost.
After the Epiphany.
Poet Marie Howe offers to us the following depiction of Ordinary Time, as time when,
The rules, once again, applied
One loaf = one loaf. One fish = one fish.
The so-called kings were dead. And the woman who had been healed grew tired of telling her story, and sometimes asked her daughter to tell it.
People generally worshipped where their parents had worshipped—
the men who’d hijacked the airplane prayed where the dead pilots had been sitting,
and the passengers prayed from their seats
—so many songs went up and out into the thinning air . . .
People, listening and watching, nodded and wept, and, leaving the theater,
one turned to the other and said, What do you want to do now?
And the other one said, I don’t know. What do you want to do?
It was the Coming of Ordinary Time. First Sunday, second Sunday.
And then (for who knows how long) it was here.
It is here, Ordinary Time, the time in which we are given the opportunity to live in response to what we have seen in the extra-ordinary times.
Ordinary time is active, not passive. It is a time when we, as Christians, demonstrate that what we have seen, what we have heard, and what we have said and promised--that it matters. It matters to us, it matters to the world. Because,
In ordinary time, we renounce evil.
In ordinary time, we encounter prophets.
In ordinary time, we find healing.
In ordinary time, we have our annual meeting…
I jest, but only just. Because the structures and statutes by which we govern ourselves don’t exist for us, but for the reconciling of the world, for the up-building of the church, and for the greater glory of Jesus Christ our Lord.
And so, as we consider our meeting, I ask us all,
What do you want to do now?
What do you want to do now?
In this ordinary time--for the reconciling of the world, for the upbuilding of the church, and for the greater glory of Jesus Christ our Lord.